Where there’s a Will…

Dear Polymaths, I realize you may not care much about this topic but I still wanna post this here because I want some analytical opinion.

Why should black actors be cast in Shakespeare plays?

I mean, they ARE actors, they’re supposed to portray people they’re not. But when a white actor portrays Othello, he puts on blackface.
If a black actor wants to portray Prince Hal, or Juliet, why shouldn’t he or she put on whiteface?

No,really, this amounts to an apology for the fact that Will didn’t write much about black people, or at least he didn’t wrote rôles for them. I can’t resist:
“O she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiop’s ear,
Beauty too rich for use, for Earth too dear!”

…but why should we feel bad about, why should we have to scurry around to atone for, t the fact that Will was born in 16th century England?

You’ll think, what’s the point of discussing this, we’re long past the point where anybody can question it, and anyway who cares?

But I can’t help but care. This is MY inheritance, my share of the world.

I won’t accept it and just move on, at least not until I see a marquis going up on Broadway for an all-white production of “Raisin in the Sun.” Or better yet, a production of “Othello “ starring a white actor. NOW we’re talkin’ “épater les bourgeois”!


Apparently … Sir Patrick Stewart did that about 25 years ago (source). 1997 might as well have been on another planet considering where we are today.

The ongoing preoccupation with identity and intersectionality is not just counterproductive, it’s outright unhealthy.

Judging by the photo accompanying the post linked above, it was a “modern” interpretation of Othello, with Stewart dressed as if he was about to beam up to the Enterprise holo deck at a moment’s notice. Or perhaps it was produced in the holodeck?


Why not? It depends on the role, of course. Should a black man play Lady MacBeth? Or a Hispanic lesbian play Hamlet? Probably not. But there are many other parts where there is much more latitude.

The greater concern might be with actors portraying actual historical characters. “Hamilton” comes to mind as an example of how not to do it.

We do have to remember that the theater crowd love to shock the audience – supposed to make us vegetables think outside our narrow boxes. Of course, they could really shock us simply by putting on a great professional performance. When was the last time you saw that?


Wow I’d love to have seen that! It was a totally reversed-race production, Stewart was the only white guy!
But I loved what Stewart says, yes, that’s the point of being an actor, you can portray anybody. (I dont at all agree with the author’s comment that black actors don’t get the same range: had he been to the theater lately? )

It’s like with Sarah Bernhardt, who famously played Hamlet and also the eponymous L’Aiglon ( Napoleon’s ill- fated son yclept The Eaglet). But she studied young men for months, hung out with them, noted their mannerisms and postures. That’s what was so remarkable about her performances.

Along those same lines, didja ever see “Jungle Fever”wherein Robert Downey Jr plays a white actor playing a black character? An absolute laffriot, so funny and so well-acted that nobody even squawked about it.


Why not? Because it’s cultural appropriation. There just were
Not any black people on the field at Agincourt, okay? Why do we have to allow our culture to be appropriated, when nobody else will put up with it? Get your OWN plays!


Cultural appropriation = Bad. Multi-culturalism = Good. But they are the same phenomenon.

Personally, I love sushi, which was entirely unknown in my neck of the woods in the days of my youth. I have even learned how to make sushi. Does that make me a bad Cultural Appropriationist? Or merely a mediocre sushi chef?

It seems that what is getting under your skin is the tilted nature of the playing field. Some people are allowed to cross gender or other roles, while other people are not. On that, we are in total agreement. Unfortunately, the tilted playing field extends far beyond the theater, and we are all paying a heavy price for relegating competence & ability to a lesser role.


The next iteration of cultural appropriation will be related to font choices in the screeds condemning cultural appropriation. The dogma gets stronger and the apparent instinct or desire for compliance gets stronger still. Very sad…

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I’d like to make an argument for shocking the audience being a way to counter the hedonic adaptation phenomenon.

Back in Will’s time, with no smartphones, TV, radio, or even barely any newspapers, theater must have been one of the most titillating experiences of the day. Can you imagine how it must feel to see a 3D movie for the first time, without having seen anything like that ever?

With increased competition for attention and emotion, theater must up its game to remain competitive. Hence the abundance of “shock” productions, hopefully leading to “awe” that on some level keeps the dopamine flowing.

My take is this is an emergent phenomenon, not necessarily intentional.


I think about this all the time, kinda from the inverse of your oerspective: almost every minute of every day, we moderne are exposed to people acting. Movies. TV shows— And those are the obvious instances, what about the constant barrage of commercials where actors enthusiastically launder their clothes, worry about their ancient relatives, perform skits about insurance coverage—everything.
Whereas back in the dark ages, it must have, as you say, been very rare for reg’lar folks to encounter professional actors doing their schtick.
I don’t know what, if anything, this means. We all do carry the burden if our public persona, and I reckon humans always have done so.


Indulge me for a moment, please.

Thinking about cultural appropriation and sushi suddenly reminded me of years ago seeing an Egyptian music video in which sushi played a part, as did American artist Snoop Dogg. Egyptian singer Tamer Hosny wanted to have fun with his visiting friend Snoop while Tamar’s girlfriend wanted to go out for sushi. Egyptians don’t seem to have any problems with cultural appropriation – try to count the number of relevant examples in this video. (My apologies for the music – not really my style).

Si Al Sayed - Tamer Hosny ft Snoop Dogg /كليب سي السيد - تامر حسني و سنوب دوج - YouTube

Arab music videos seem more interested in telling stories than their Western equivalents. Does that make them an example of cultural misappropriation? Or is this an example of borrowing from another culture and then improving on it? Here is Lebanese star Nawal Al Zogby performing far from home and missing her husband. No concerns about cultural appropriation here. If other cultures are relaxed about such things, why should we not take them lightly too? In a sense, cultural appropriation shows that the similarities between societies far outweigh the differences.

Aghla El Habayeb - Nawal El Zoghby أغلى الحبايب - نوال الزغبى - YouTube


I think the whole term “cultural appropriation” is just another BS word salad statement by the Left to create discord, disruption, and ill will.

?Just when haven’t we culturally appropriated things from other cultures. Indeed, ?when have not other cultures not taken things they liked and made them their own. It is simply part of life, growing older, being exposed to other “THINGS”. ?Since when is “culture” the exclusive right of anyone.

I say, a pox upon all those who pretend this is an issue.